As the U.S. prepares for the Juneteenth holiday on June 19, HR leaders and employee benefits teams are focused on how to celebrate Juneteenth at work. This is a valuable opportunity to recognize the resilience of the African-American community and honor the holiday’s historical significance. 

By honoring Juneteenth as a holiday, companies have a powerful impact. And celebrations can complement ongoing engagement initiatives to promote diverse and equitable workplace cultures. 

No matter how your organization chooses to celebrate Juneteenth, make sure you promote inclusion and employee engagement. Celebrate the identities of your people and foster a people-centered workplace culture that attracts and retains top talent. Organizations thrive when people feel recognized and uplifted.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

What is Juneteenth?

The name Juneteenth is a fusion of the words June and nineteenth. The annual celebration of Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, marks the end of the enslavement of African Americans in the United States. 

It commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that Union Army Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and issued an order that all enslaved African Americans were free. This day came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. 

The observation of Juneteenth has been a tradition in the United States for more than 150 years, but the Black Lives Matter movement amplified its significance in 2020. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday and a day of reflection that anchors and empowers Black Americans. Today, there is a broader understanding and recognition of the day’s historical importance. 

Why is it important to celebrate Juneteenth at work?

Sixty percent of employees are values-driven. To attract and retain top talent, companies must align their values with those of current and prospective employees, as well as their customers. Celebrations of Juneteenth (and Pride Month!) signal that you’re an inclusive, welcoming organization. 

Celebrating Juneteenth at work can help to:

Enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion

Recognize and celebrate Juneteenth and demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. When employees see their identities and cultural heritage acknowledged and embraced, it fosters a sense of belonging, validation, and acceptance.

It also sends a clear message that your organization is committed to addressing racial inequality. Promote awareness and deepen everyone’s understanding of the triumphs and challenges of the Black community. 

When employees see their identities and cultural heritage acknowledged and embraced, it fosters a sense of belonging, validation, and acceptance.

Improve employee total well-being

Inclusion contributes to a positive work environment. When employees feel valued and supported, it improves their total well-being. And awareness of other cultures and experiences promotes empathy and respect. A strong sense of unity among employees contributes to a safer and more harmonious workplace.

Psychological safety in the workplace encourages open dialogue. This leads to greater trust, collaboration, and innovation within teams. Create an environment where employees can share their views and experiences. And engage in healthy, constructive discussions around fighting racism and promoting social justice. 

Increase engagement and strengthen community

Boost employee engagement by cultivating a sense of pride and purpose in your workplace. When employees see their company organizing meaningful cultural celebrations, it enhances their motivation to contribute positively to the organization. Increased engagement improves job satisfaction and productivity.

Juneteenth celebrations provide an occasion for employees to come together, interact, and bond on a personal level beyond their work responsibilities. Shared cultural celebrations build connections and promote cohesion among colleagues.

How to celebrate Juneteenth at work

In the lead-up to Juneteenth, it’s smart to utilize internal communication channels to share information and educate employees about the holiday’s historical significance. Spotlight any celebrations, events, or initiatives you have planned with newsletters, emails, and company-wide announcements. 

Offering paid time off for Juneteenth provides an opportunity for employees to observe, celebrate, or engage in activities that are meaningful to them personally and culturally.

The most popular and effective way for a company to honor Juneteenth is to officially recognize it with a paid holiday. Offering paid time off for Juneteenth provides an opportunity for employees to observe, celebrate, or engage in activities that are meaningful to them personally and culturally.

In addition to acknowledging Juneteenth with a paid holiday, here are the best Juneteenth ideas for celebrating at work: 

1. Learn (more) about Black history

Encourage employees to spend time reading about the United States’ legacy of systemic racism and oppression. Suggested readings can range from critical texts to children’s books.

Employee Resource Groups and Anti-Racist reading lists (more here) are two ways to generate interest in reading as a way to learn about Black history. Colleagues who read the same titles can gather for discussion and reflections over a company-sponsored lunch. 

2. Host a Juneteenth lunch and learn

Tried and true, lunch and learn sessions can educate employees about the history and meaning of Juneteenth. Employees will gather to learn about Black history and engage in discussion, potentially with the leadership of a guest speaker. Remember, lunch is an awesome opportunity to support Black-owned restaurants!

3. Coordinate an immersive experience

There are more than 160 Black/African-American museums, sites, and cultural centers. Send a team from your company and have them share what they saw and learned with colleagues after the experience. If you want to broaden the scope of participation, you can embark on a Juneteenth virtual experience – a great option for distributed teams. 

4. Elevate local Juneteenth celebrations

Encourage employee participation or co-sponsor Juneteenth activities and celebrations in your local communities. Use your company’s social media, newsletters, or website to promote local events. Share all the details, encourage attendance, and highlight the importance of celebrating Juneteenth.

5. Host a film screening

Host a screening of a documentary or movie that explores African-American history or historical struggles for civil rights. An in-person shared experience can be powerful, but some employees may prefer to view a film on their own. Allow time for a post-viewing party and discussion to encourage dialogue and reflection.

6. Gamify learning

Create a Juneteenth-themed trivia challenge, crossword, or quiz competition to raise awareness and test employees’ knowledge of African-American history and Juneteenth facts. Offer prizes or recognition for participants with the highest scores.

7. Spotlight and promote Black leadership

Feature Black employees who have demonstrated exceptional leadership within the organization or the community. Highlight their accomplishments, contributions, and impact. Also, offer leadership development workshops specifically tailored to Black employees. Provide training, mentorship opportunities, and resources to support building leadership skills. 

8. Build a community of allies

Juneteenth is the perfect opportunity to establish or expand allyship in your organization. Everyone can and should be an ally. Create a culture of allyship that encourages and supports advocating for each other. Learn more about becoming an active ally.   

9. Support Black-owned businesses

Share the stories, products, and services of Black-owned businesses to raise awareness and encourage patronage. Compile a directory of relevant Black-owned businesses and make it accessible to employees and customers. You can also establish diversity programs that prioritize partnerships with Black-owned businesses.

10. Encourage volunteering

Despite being a paid holiday, Juneteenth should be honored as a “day on, not a day off.” Encourage your employees to volunteer with local organizations working toward racial equality. Afterward, they can share their experiences with their colleagues. 

11. Donate and support Black communities

Make a corporate donation, host a fundraiser, or launch a campaign. Allocate a percentage of profits to organizations that support and uplift Black communities. Research and identify nonprofit organizations or community initiatives dedicated to supporting education, entrepreneurship, racial justice, economic empowerment, or healthcare disparities.

12. Establish long-term partnerships

Make plans to partner with organizations that align with your company’s mission and values. This will provide sustained support beyond Juneteenth. Ongoing financial contributions, employee volunteering, and collaborative projects can address systemic issues and drive lasting change.

Celebrating our shared history benefits everyone

Juneteenth is an opportunity to honor Black history and celebrate Black culture. With the power of empathy, companies can acknowledge what enslaved African Americans endured, what their liberation signified, and what progress toward racial equality means for all of us.

When we spotlight and advocate for change, it creates a rising tide that lifts all boats. Publicly honoring our human interconnection holds space for everyone at the inclusion table. The best culture companies are leveling up their celebration game to make this Juneteenth memorable! 

With Espresa, companies can Power Great Workplaces®. Celebrate the unique history, culture, identity, and passion of your people with our modularly designed Lifestyle Spending Account platform

Ready to learn more about Espresa? Reach out to our team for a free demo!


Why is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Important in the Workplace?


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